Facebook: It’s All Done With Mirrors

Facebook now invites us, one and all,
To read the writing, there upon the wall;
To place your private self in public view
And see what other people think of you.
The internet, ten years ago, was only
Thought a place to be depressed and lonely,
Hidden from the friends you had outside,
The net was just a place where people hide.

This wasn’t just a random guess, in fairness;
It came from the Objective Self-Awareness
Theory
, which proposes that we view
Ourselves the way objective others do
As well as as a subject, from within.
When self is viewed as object, we begin
To see we fall far short of our ideal,
With negative effects on how we feel.

A second theory notes that we select
The details which we share, and which reject;
Selective self-presentation says, we choose
Among the information that we use;
Our public face is thereby polished bright
And we look good, in our and others’ sight.
This mirror, mirror, on our facebook wall
May show us as the fairest of them all

These two competing views were put to test,
To see which one described the outcome best;
Participants would view their profile pages,
Then take a test of self-esteem, which gauges
How they view themselves. These were compared
To two control conditions—one which shared
The room with a mirror (a prompt for OSA),
And one with all such objects tucked away.

The winner is… it seems the Facebook screen
Allows us to select, to frame, to preen,
To paint a perfect portrait we can share
And tell ourselves it’s our reflection there.
A gilded mask can take our place instead
And we, as well as others, are misled—
But does the positive effect apply
When facebook friends can catch us in a lie?

Ok… First off, Cuttlecap tip to Scicurious (click for a prose explanation of the study), and apologies to any lovers of poetry and/or verse. It’s all Sci’s fault. She tweeted about the study, I asked if she could send me a copy, and she suggested I versify it. So I did, but I don’t know when I’ve ever seen such a nasty bit of forced rhyme and meter. But there it is.

So, the study. As Sci notes, it’s a test of a very specific environment–Facebook. OSA (objective self-awareness–as the verse clumsily says) predicts that stimuli which prompt us to view ourselves as others do, will as a rule force us to see our real selves rather than our ideal, and depress us with the comparison. (Yes, that’s an oversimplification–for the real deal, Duvall & Wicklund wrote the book. Literally. In 1972). Thus, looking at our Facebook profiles ought to be sobering and sad. Or maybe not. Selective Self-Presentation notes that we get to pick and choose amongst the things we post, and that we are more likely to post a flattering pic than an unflattering, for example. (Again, an oversimplification.) We can edit, and polish up our image. It’s a facebook profile, not a lie detector test. Exposure to this polished image, then, would not depress us, but may in fact have a positive effect on self-esteem.

Which is what they found. (again, see Sci’s post for details, if you wish.)

But. Let’s contrast this with another recent paper, Back et al., 2010 (pdf), “Facebook Profiles Reflect Actual Personality, Not Self-Idealization”. First off, the questions being explored are entirely different, and the methodologies likewise are different, so there is no direct comparison. Don’t worry about that. But they do contrast two competing hypotheses, one of which is (to my eye) within spitting distance of Selective Self-Presentation. That hypothesis is the idealized virtual-identity hypothesis, which is pretty self-explanatory, suggesting that profiles display not the real, but an idealized self. This is contrasted with Facebook as simply an extension of the rest of the social world, and just another place to do one’s best to accurately present oneself.

Which is what they found. As the title might have hinted.

Two reasons for this, they suggest, are 1) some of the content is not yours to control; other people can post on your wall. 2) people you know (either in real life or online) provide feedback. If you claim to be tall and thin (or the equivalent behavioral trait), and you are neither, you can only keep this up if no one knows the real you. And it turns out (again, thanks Sci, for this paper as well) that Facebook (and MySpace, for that matter) are mostly used as an extension of face-to-face interaction. (Kujath, 2011)

So, my question: is there a differential effect of self-esteem enhancement, dependent on the extent to which Facebook is used as extension of face-to-face interaction? If you decide to study this, I want second authorship.

Lastly… I don’t do Facebook. Well, I have what they used to call a fan page (which has a link over there to the right, and which you should all “like”, for reasons which escape me), but other than a shell that allows me to post stuff there, I have no facebook presence. Especially as the non-cuttlefish me. I can’t imagine why I would want to, despite pleas from the occasional person (a cousin or two, e.g.). So, feel free to try to convince me to join, or reaffirm my non-joinage.

Ooooh… Quantum!

You can learn “facilitation”
Through our public presentation;
You don’t need to be a doctor with a medical degree!
Pills or needles? We don’t want ‘em
What we’re doing here is quantum—
You can learn to be an expert, if you’ve got the weekend free
We’re not scandalous or shady—
Why, just listen to this lady
Who was cured of emphysema in three-quarters of an hour
Sure, at first it rather shocked her
That I’m not a licensed doctor
But in under fifty minutes I’d convinced her of my power
Proper med school is so grueling,
But there’s no real need of schooling
If you follow my instructions, and the methods I have found
Raise your arms up to the ceiling,
Say “it’s time to start the healing”
And for roughly half an hour, simply wave your hands around.

Cuttlecap tip to PZ, of course.

The Ear-Worm

There’s a tune in my brain

Which will drive me insane
Cos I can’t seem to rein 
          in my thinking
And it’s solace I seek
Cos it’s been there all week
Like my head’s sprung a leak 
          and it’s sinking
It’s just musical fluff
Though it’s catchy enough,
And an ear-worm is tough 
          to dismember
But I’d love to take aim
Cos it isn’t a game
And it burns like a flame 
          or an ember
I’ve been thinking it through
And I know what I’ll do—
I’ll just share them with you 
          in my writing
And I hope you’re inclined
Not to think me unkind,
Cos I hope that you find 
          them exciting
So I tell you, my child,
Here’s a list I’ve compiled—
Though my thoughts have gone wild, 
          this will tame me
My relief is my goal—
If these songs hurt your soul
They’re not mine to control… 
          so don’t blame me!
I have had a few songs going through my head for what seems to be two or three lifetimes just now.  Fortunately, these are songs I actually like quite a bit, so it isn’t torture (I could imagine the Hell it would be to have, say, “Disco Duck” forever on the mind–yes, that dates me a bit, but I hope it makes my point).  These songs are a sampling of what’s been bouncing around my skull for some while; if you know them, you probably know why.  If you don’t know them, don’t be afraid to click.  They are earworms… but in a good way.

Mark Twain (of course) did it first (of course) and better (of course), with his short story “Punch, Brothers, Punch“.  Before I list my earworms, I leave you with his words of caution:

Why did I write this article? It was for a worthy, even a noble, purpose. It was to warn you, reader, if you should came across those merciless rhymes, to avoid them–avoid them as you would a pestilence.

If he were not dead, I would think he had possibly found my site!

The songs!  To share with you, so as to test Twain’s theory…
First, The Decemberists, with “Grace Cathedral Hill”

Then, a bit of honey poured into your ears… Camera Obscura’s “Honey in the Sun”. I could list a half dozen or more Camera Obscura songs, but this one… *sigh*…

Last one for today (if this works, I may unload another batch sometime)… Parachute Musical, with “One More Song”. It was a toss-up between this and “Jacksonville”, which is also excellent. Actually, the whole album is, come to think of it.

So, if Mark Twain is right, I may finally be able to sleep tonight with a skull free of earworms. Although you may not have it so easy…

It Makes Perfect Sense

No ifs, no ands, no buts, no maybes,
God wants women makin’ babies;
No contraception, no abortion,
Every gal must do her portion
Although it seems these funding cuts
Are absolutely fucking nuts,
The politics are reconciled:
We want all women great with child
That is our view, in this our forum…
Once they’re born, we can ignore ‘em.
PZ asks “That makes sense, right?”  On the face of it, Republican plans to cut funding to Planned Parenthood in order to prevent abortions is a bit like shutting down hospitals because there are occasionally sick people there.  Planned Parenthood has prevented more abortions than any sign-toting protesters–ah, but they do it by preventing pregnancies (unwanted ones–thus the “Planned” part of the name) in the first place.
There’s the rub.  How can we be fruitful and multiply if we use contraception?  The GOP’s plan makes perfect sense once we realize the proper role of women, as baby factories.

It Makes Perfect Sense

No ifs, no ands, no buts, no maybes,
God wants women makin’ babies;
No contraception, no abortion,
Every gal must do her portion
Although it seems these funding cuts
Are absolutely fucking nuts,
The politics are reconciled:
We want all women great with child
That is our view, in this our forum…
Once they’re born, we can ignore ‘em.
PZ asks “That makes sense, right?”  On the face of it, Republican plans to cut funding to Planned Parenthood in order to prevent abortions is a bit like shutting down hospitals because there are occasionally sick people there.  Planned Parenthood has prevented more abortions than any sign-toting protesters–ah, but they do it by preventing pregnancies (unwanted ones–thus the “Planned” part of the name) in the first place.
There’s the rub.  How can we be fruitful and multiply if we use contraception?  The GOP’s plan makes perfect sense once we realize the proper role of women, as baby factories.

Hate Groups Top 1000

In the near-recent past
If your hatred was vast
You could sit there and plot in your basement
You were perfectly free
Where nobody could see
You, and ask what the look on your face meant.
You would sit there and stew
As you muddled things through
And get caught up in impotent rages
You could hiss, you could vent;
Though it’s not their intent,
Still, basements make pretty good cages
You could keep to yourself
As you fill up your shelf
With the books that would fuel your conspiracy
But you’re only one man
And your beautiful plan
You keep hidden so no one will hear or see
But technology changed
So the warped and deranged
With a desktop computer and modem
Could now easily find
Those who write the same kind
Of conspiracy screeds and upload ’em
And they soon became lords
Of their bulletin boards
Or their chatrooms or newsgroups or forums
Where they found one another
And brother to brother
They gathered together in quorums
Now these like-minded chaps
With their keyboards in laps
Found a comfort, a sort of community
When they set to their tasks
Anonymity masks
Them, and blather they will, with impunity
Their connection is fast
So their knowledge is vast
In the internet age, they’re in heaven
With definitive proof
Of the moon-landing spoof
And how Bush was behind 9/11
Or how giving vaccines
To the populace, means
That the government’s playing the villain
They’re in league with Big Pharma,
So sound the alarm, a
Concern since they “found” penicillin
And the Kennedy plot
With a gunman who shot,
In a story that’s kept from the masses
Just a C.I.A. lackey
They think it was Jackie,
Who’s free now to marry Onassis
And the people all laughed
When an alien craft
Was a weather balloon, though a nifty one
But a cover-up works
Now they look like they’re jerks
When they talk about area fifty-one
But this corkscrewing ride
Has a sinister side
When the groups may be formed around hatred
Where their heads are all filled
With a view that’s distilled
Cos they read all the stuff that their mate read
Now there’s one group of hacks
Who are blaming the blacks
For the changes they see in society
While another sees gays
And their sodomite ways
As a blow to the nation’s propriety
Yet another will frown
If a person is brown
Whether wetback or Ay-rab, you lose
And additional groups
Hate the government’s troops
Or the faithful old standby, the Jews.
Now you’ve written a site
Where you post what you write
Of the citizenship of Obama
And there’s hate in your views
And the language you use
You would never repeat to your mamma
You are joined by your friends
And the fun never ends
As you’re lost in the thrill of debating
You’re exchanging your views
And deciding on who’s
Is the group most deserving of hating
If you needed a clue
I could point back to you
As I’m reaching the end of this ditty
I’ll admit the appeal,
But the way that I feel?
It’s not so much hatred… as pity.
NPR reports on a new study by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which finds the number of hate groups in the US has topped 1000, for the first time.  This is a sobering study (direct link), finding huge climbs in some sorts of hate groups (including a 60% rise in antigovenment “Patriot” groups), and listing known terrorist actions taken by some members of these groups.
As my silly little (?) verse indicates, I think a substantial part of this is simply that the internet makes it so much easier for the lone voice to join with other lone voices.  It’s hard to escape noticing, though, that the leap in some sorts of hate groups corresponds with the election of a president of an unapproved skin color.  I’d have written about that, but it was too depressing.
Oh, and if you are wondering… yes, the Nightmare Song, from Iolanthe.  Not exactly, but inspired by.

Hate Groups Top 1000

In the near-recent past
If your hatred was vast
You could sit there and plot in your basement
You were perfectly free
Where nobody could see
You, and ask what the look on your face meant.
You would sit there and stew
As you muddled things through
And get caught up in impotent rages
You could hiss, you could vent;
Though it’s not their intent,
Still, basements make pretty good cages
You could keep to yourself
As you fill up your shelf
With the books that would fuel your conspiracy
But you’re only one man
And your beautiful plan
You keep hidden so no one will hear or see
But technology changed
So the warped and deranged
With a desktop computer and modem
Could now easily find
Those who write the same kind
Of conspiracy screeds and upload ’em
And they soon became lords
Of their bulletin boards
Or their chatrooms or newsgroups or forums
Where they found one another
And brother to brother
They gathered together in quorums
Now these like-minded chaps
With their keyboards in laps
Found a comfort, a sort of community
When they set to their tasks
Anonymity masks
Them, and blather they will, with impunity
Their connection is fast
So their knowledge is vast
In the internet age, they’re in heaven
With definitive proof
Of the moon-landing spoof
And how Bush was behind 9/11
Or how giving vaccines
To the populace, means
That the government’s playing the villain
They’re in league with Big Pharma,
So sound the alarm, a
Concern since they “found” penicillin
And the Kennedy plot
With a gunman who shot,
In a story that’s kept from the masses
Just a C.I.A. lackey
They think it was Jackie,
Who’s free now to marry Onassis
And the people all laughed
When an alien craft
Was a weather balloon, though a nifty one
But a cover-up works
Now they look like they’re jerks
When they talk about area fifty-one
But this corkscrewing ride
Has a sinister side
When the groups may be formed around hatred
Where their heads are all filled
With a view that’s distilled
Cos they read all the stuff that their mate read
Now there’s one group of hacks
Who are blaming the blacks
For the changes they see in society
While another sees gays
And their sodomite ways
As a blow to the nation’s propriety
Yet another will frown
If a person is brown
Whether wetback or Ay-rab, you lose
And additional groups
Hate the government’s troops
Or the faithful old standby, the Jews.
Now you’ve written a site
Where you post what you write
Of the citizenship of Obama
And there’s hate in your views
And the language you use
You would never repeat to your mamma
You are joined by your friends
And the fun never ends
As you’re lost in the thrill of debating
You’re exchanging your views
And deciding on who’s
Is the group most deserving of hating
If you needed a clue
I could point back to you
As I’m reaching the end of this ditty
I’ll admit the appeal,
But the way that I feel?
It’s not so much hatred… as pity.
NPR reports on a new study by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which finds the number of hate groups in the US has topped 1000, for the first time.  This is a sobering study (direct link), finding huge climbs in some sorts of hate groups (including a 60% rise in antigovenment “Patriot” groups), and listing known terrorist actions taken by some members of these groups.
As my silly little (?) verse indicates, I think a substantial part of this is simply that the internet makes it so much easier for the lone voice to join with other lone voices.  It’s hard to escape noticing, though, that the leap in some sorts of hate groups corresponds with the election of a president of an unapproved skin color.  I’d have written about that, but it was too depressing.
Oh, and if you are wondering… yes, the Nightmare Song, from Iolanthe.  Not exactly, but inspired by.

I’m So Proud Of My Students!

We get them for a class or two
And then we let them go
We hope we’ve changed the way they think
As much as what they know
Too often, though they’re doing well
We cannot watch them grow
Though sometimes (but too rarely),
They’ll stop by to say hello
When friends ask, all too often,
Why I do the work I do,
I’m forced again to notice
That it doesn’t pay—it’s true,
But pity those who never hear
At all, their whole lives through:
“My world has changed forever,
And it’s all because of you”
Meh–what a saccharine little verse.  If I were not in such a good mood, it would never see the light of day.  But today, in two separate and independent incidents, former students (from just last semester, in this case) sought me out to tell me how my class had pretty much ruined them (in a good way!) for a class or two they were in this semester.   Basically, there were topics they were being presented with which… are not supported by either research or logic.  Their classmates, for the most part, don’t know this, or if they do, they are keeping quiet.  My former students, though… I’ll probably hear some complaints from these profs.
I’m used to it by now.  I love it.
I’m not going to mention what the topics are, or what the differences in claims are;  clearly, this blog is not the place to publicly identify someone, even by accident.  You can take my word for it that I am right, or you may feel free to doubt.  Doesn’t bother me a bit. 
I’m just (uncharacteristically, I know!) crowing a bit.

I’m So Proud Of My Students!

We get them for a class or two
And then we let them go
We hope we’ve changed the way they think
As much as what they know
Too often, though they’re doing well
We cannot watch them grow
Though sometimes (but too rarely),
They’ll stop by to say hello
When friends ask, all too often,
Why I do the work I do,
I’m forced again to notice
That it doesn’t pay—it’s true,
But pity those who never hear
At all, their whole lives through:
“My world has changed forever,
And it’s all because of you”
Meh–what a saccharine little verse.  If I were not in such a good mood, it would never see the light of day.  But today, in two separate and independent incidents, former students (from just last semester, in this case) sought me out to tell me how my class had pretty much ruined them (in a good way!) for a class or two they were in this semester.   Basically, there were topics they were being presented with which… are not supported by either research or logic.  Their classmates, for the most part, don’t know this, or if they do, they are keeping quiet.  My former students, though… I’ll probably hear some complaints from these profs.
I’m used to it by now.  I love it.
I’m not going to mention what the topics are, or what the differences in claims are;  clearly, this blog is not the place to publicly identify someone, even by accident.  You can take my word for it that I am right, or you may feel free to doubt.  Doesn’t bother me a bit. 
I’m just (uncharacteristically, I know!) crowing a bit.

Toxic Blob Alert!

Just off the coast of Florida,
A sticky, toxic blob
Is mystifying scientists
Who try to do their job.
It’s three feet thick, gelatinous,
And smells like rotten eggs
A giant, oily jellyfish
(without so many legs).
It’s a tangled mat of algae
And bacteria, which die
In the anaerobic water
While the blob is oozing by
This giant, toxic, sticky mess
Is floating, off the coast
The Gulf was once so beautiful…
Perhaps this is its ghost.

Just off the Florida Panhandle coastline, within site of Perdido Key, an underwater mass of dead sea life that appears to be growing as microscopic algae and bacteria get trapped and die has been found by scientists.

Early samples indicate the glob is at least 3 feet thick and spans two-thirds of a mile parallel to the coast.

No one knows where it came from or where it will go.

It appears to be nearly 100% organic, but this does not rule out something initiated by the Gulf oil spill.  Part of the confusion stems from the size of the blob–not that it was so huge it was a mystery, but rather because it was so big, the researchers did not have sufficient tools to sample from the bottom layer, which would likely be very instructive.  They will return with the appropriate tools.

Cuttlecap tip to Glendon Mellow and Deep Sea News, via twitter.